Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Stalking victims deserve new law

Post by Brian O'Neill on March 24, 2013 at 3:54 pm with 15 Comments »
March 24, 2013 7:47 pm

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” 
―Joseph Heller, Catch 22 

Imagine a very real and credible threat so pervasive you must constantly be on alert.  It alters your life, forcing you to check the exits everytime you go somewhere and always have an escape plan handy.

Now imagine that you are not a soldier in a combat zone or  an undercover operative on covert assignment. Your reality is far less intriguing – you are a victim of a stalker.

Courtesy of victim of crime.org
Courtesy of victim of crime.org

Unlike dangerous professions, or their Hollywood equivalent, there is nothing mysterious about stalking cases. Most involve abusers who continue to hover over their current or past domestic partners because they are unwilling to give up the fear-based power they derive from their victims. A smaller number of stalkers are demented individuals whose victims are the object of a twisted fixation.

The latter example may describe the plight of Ken Paulson’s daughter, Jennifer. The twenty-five year old teacher was killed by her stalker, a man she barely knew, three years ago (Trib 3/23). Since then Ken Paulson has been urging our state legislature to pass an anti-stalking measure he believes could have saved his daughter’s life.

It’s been an uphill battle.

Two years ago I attended a meeting at the state attorney general’s office where an anti-stalking measure was being vetted. One of the speakers was David Martin, a seasoned prosecutor who leads King County’s domestic violence unit.

Martin shared a vignette regarding a local stalking-related homicide, then went on to discuss the disturbing trends, all of which managed to convince a disparate group of folks that the status quo needed an overhaul.

That idea led to a 2012 bill which, due to partisan politics among other factors, failed to pass muster. Fast forward to this session – not one, but two versions of the measure, HB 1383 and SB 5452, have passed the respective houses and await the Governor’s signature next month.

This new law could be a game-changer.

A violation of a no-contact order is one of the more routine police service calls, because, as statistics demonstrate, abusers often pay little heed to no-contact orders.  Though most of these incidents are nonviolent, there have still been far too many domestic violence homicides precipitated by the service of a no-contact order.

To address that, the new bill Paulson has been urging on the legislature would allow judges to order alleged abusers (respondents) to wear GPS tracking devices. If an alleged abuser were electronically monitored, the victim (petitioner) should, in theory, have an opportunity to keep tabs on their stalker. This is especially important in the critical time period after a no-contact order is served.

A stalking-protection law is not the final solution, of course. There is no guarantee that every judge will embrace the use of trackers, and the stalkers themselves may find other means to insinuate fear into their victims’ lives.

But this measure, if signed by Governor Jay Inslee, would be a good start. I only wish it were around for Jennifer Paulson.

There are, however, plenty more victims out there like her, and they’re getting tired of living in paranoid fear.

Leave a comment Comments → 15
  1. Excellent article! So glad I decided to read your column :). Agree 100%.

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    Thanks, TMell.

  3. Marie220 says:

    I agree with the need. But I have a procedural question: Most initial no-contact orders are obtained ex parte. It seems that you would have to give someone a court hearing before you could force them to actually wear a monitor, plus allow a victim the opportunity to monitor it. Unless officers were required to place the monitor on a suspect when they served the no-contact order, how would this protect people during the time immediately after service of the order?

  4. Brian O'Neill says:

    Marie220- Thanks for your comments.

    You are right in identifying the issue with GPS tracking. But I’ll be honest, from the civil rights side of this, I really don’t see a problem.

    When cops respond to a DV incident, it often ends with someone’s civil rights being circumvented by handcuffs and a trip to jail. Sure, he or she eventually sees the judge, but often not for hours or even days.

    When judges first arraign DV suspects they have the authority to immediately place a No-Contact order on them, and they often do. The hurdle is probable cause, not guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Our current judicial system is set up in this manner to protect victims’ rights. Yes, this authority can be misused, but the victim body count of days gone by forced the legislators’ hands.

    However…when a victim requests a DV protection order – which often happens when police are not called to a prior scene of domestic violence – the legal hurdle is even greater, since the respondent (alleged abuser) has no opportunity to address a judge.

    I’ll admit, that is troubling. But in my opinion – and this is just me talking – the decision to place a GPS tracker on a subject suspected of stalking and/or domestic abuse should be within a judge’s purview. They see a ton of these cases, and they are ultimately answerable for their decisions, good or bad. If a judge feels he or she has sufficient evidence, and fears for a potential victim’s safety, then that judge should have the means to order the respondent to wear a tracker, sight unseen.

    Yup, that’s not only inconvenient, but an infringement on the respondent’s rights. But the next time you’re at the airport getting patted down or reduced to a naked scanner image – having done NOTHING wrong – consider that thousands of people are killed by their domestic partner or stalker every year.

  5. simonsjs says:

    Ok because there are some nuts out there is no excuse to make someone guilty without a trial. Forcing someone to wear one of these just because someone makes an allegation is unconstitutional. I see Brian you have no problem if someones civil rights are violated. Typical cop.

  6. Marie220 says:

    Thanks, Brian. I wasn’t even thinking of the situations where an arrest had already been made. That makes much more sense.

  7. Brian O'Neill says:

    You’re off the mark, simonsjs. A GPS tracker is no more a punishment or loss of civil liberties than the infringements routinely placed on alleged abusers served with temporary orders of protection. These too are issued prior to seeing a judge.

    Bottom line – the “nuts out there,” as you describe them, continue to assault and kill their victims by the thousands. In my book, the victim’s right to exist free from harm outweighs the minimal intrusion of a GPS tracker worn by an alleged abuser.

  8. As near as I can tell, any method of deterence to help the victims of domestic violence is acceptable. From what I have been reading very few of the aggressors obey any attempts to dissuade them from harming their intended victims.The orders forbidding any contact with the victims is a joke and seems to be completely ignored. There needs to be harsher penalties fot the stalking crimes that are in place at this time. All too often the victim winds up dead and the perpetrator gets a slap on the wrist.

  9. smokey984 says:

    More legislation/harsher penalties will not prevent anything…Criminals will not and have not followed the rules and furthermore care less what the penalties are.

    All this “after action” garbage (legislation/rules/punishment) makes me sick to my stomach.

    People retain the inherent right to self-defense, and those who don’t believe it that have always paid for it with their lives.

  10. Brian O'Neill says:

    That’s a harsh rebuke for people who believe in civilized society, where a people make rules that are enforced by police officers. Most people don’t want to live their lives in the way you suggest, smokey. That’s not my opinion, that’s the majority opinion.

    Also, as a first responder on the front lines of domestic violence, the measures within this legislation WILL prevent abusers from killing victims in the future.

  11. smokey984 says:

    Not a harsh rebuke at all, its simply the truth and not the majority opinion as you would mislead people to believe.

    You said: Though most of these incidents are nonviolent, there have still been far too many domestic violence homicides precipitated by the service of a no-contact order.

    That in itself, by your admission, means current measures don’t work?

    And then you said: To address that, the new bill Paulson has been urging on the legislature would allow judges to order alleged abusers (respondents) to wear GPS tracking devices. If an alleged abuser were electronically monitored, the victim (petitioner) should, in theory, have an opportunity to keep tabs on their stalker.

    So is a alleged abuser supposed to stay in front of a computer monitor and track his/her stalker via the web 24/7? and if not, who will? I can barely stay behind one more than a couple of hours…

    And then you admit AGAIN, the measures you propose wont work in the next paragraph by saying: A stalking-protection law is not the final solution, of course. There is no guarantee that every judge will embrace the use of trackers, and the stalkers themselves may find other means to insinuate fear into their victims’ lives.

    I’m sorry but wishful thinking only works in cartoons and fantasy..

    How the real world works is folks take their own personal safety into their own hands by exercising their self-defense rights by either the carrying of a personal defense weapon, or if they choose not to then by taking a self-defense course. My personal recommendation would be Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which teaches a person to fight from their back because more times than not the bigger man will overpower a woman to the ground. At this point she would know how to manipulate her attackers own strength/body weight against him.

  12. KUNSTLERBILD says:

    It is to the best interest of this nation that we sever any connection with the wild west. It appears that society, as constrained by those who endorse violence as a remedy for violence, is required to maintain a high noon shoot out mentality. How does that advance the cause of civilization?

  13. Brian O'Neill says:

    Well said.

  14. simonsjs says:

    Kunstlerbild, I’ll tell you how. Simple, it gets rid of those who cause others harm. Protect yourself first as Smokey suggested. The police don’t protect anyone, they show up afterwards.

    So Brian, lets say a partner or spouse has a fit and wants to cause another problems and gets a restraining order just to mess with the person, happens much more than you want to admit, and then this person now has to wear an ankle thingy. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. Protect yourself like smokey says, that is the only way for victims to not become victims. First and foremost protect yourself. The gun is the great equalizer and will do away with most stalkers fairly quickly. Jurors will see that if the prosecutor tries to cause them harm for their actions. Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

  15. smokey984 says:

    KUNSTLERBILD please don’t misquote me nor put words into my mouth, i was simply making my point of how society works, and that’s obviously unfortunate.

    Violence is never the answer. Never has been and never will, yet sometimes, when all lesser means have failed, violence, in self-defense, is the only answer.

    Like Ive said, those that don’t understand that have always paid for it with their lives. Society’s are chalk full of those examples.

    And if your preaching non-violence then i hope you back up your words with your actions because some who write/comment have chosen a profession of violence (IE. Law Enforcement, Military Service, etc).

    So getting back to Brian’s article..He has offered an opinion to help solve a problem within our society, to which i disagree with, has anybody else have a solution?

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